Posted on May 9, 2008 in File Sharing, IP, RIAA by Brian RoweComments Off

Childnet International’s mission is to work in partnership with others around the world to help make the Internet a great and safe place for children. Childnet anounced on April 30th that they are launching a Play For Fun Free Slots– No Download, No Registration!

global information campaign to explain the world of music downloading to teachers and parents worldwide.

This updated pocket-sized guide, supported by Pro-music, the international alliance of music sector groups, will be distributed through schools and colleges, libraries, record stores, teaching portals and websites in 21 countries.

The primary problems with this campaign are twofold:
1. The campaign appears to be little more then a scare campaign cooked up the RIAA. The guide to “Young People, Music and the Internet” ignores users rights like Fair Use and provides no real resources for parents that want to learn about the issues and options. As a parent I am insulted by the single sided perspective that uses fear over facts.

2. The campaign fails to educate young people or parents on real safe online practices. Services that include free legal content like Miro, and Magnatune are ignored while the resource for finding music are nothing more than a list of approved online music stores. This campaign is as close to a pure advertisement as one can get while still pretending to educate.

Here is an example of the scare tactics used to “educate” one on using music at home

“What are the risks of looking for music?”

One of the risks with P2P is that children may come across unwelcome content such as viruses, pornographic or violent images. Some files are purposely misnamed to trick people into downloading them. Because of the way P2P services work, filtering tools that can block offensive content like porn or violent images and video on websites are not effective in blocking the same content when made available through P2P. This leaves children at risk.

Some P2P software lets users “chat” with other file-sharers, most of them strangers, so the same concerns and rules about chatting on the internet should apply here too. See Childnet’s website.

Brian’s Comments
: Pure scare tactics with little to no factual basis. is another scare tacit site that is short on facts and long on FEAR.

“Could our private files leak on to the internet?”

P2P software opens “doors” in your computer which may compromise privacy and security. It is possible to inadvertently share private and confidential details including financial information with other file-sharers.

Some P2P programmes come with extra software, called “spyware”. This may report which websites you visit to marketing companies, or even record your passwords and send them to fraudsters.

File-sharers’ computers may be vulnerable to viruses infecting other machines on the P2P networks and to people trying to control computers remotely. In many instances remotely controlled computers are used to send unsolicited emails or spam without the knowledge of the owner.

Brian’s Comments: More scare tactics with little to no factual basis. Most P2P software is just as safe as other programs I am more worried about a root kit from used Sony CD’s then a P2P client. If you want to teach people how to avoid spyware give them a list of well reviewed P2P clients.

“Can we copy music if it’s online?”

Copyright can seem confusing, but it applies to digital music just as much as it does the physical CD. Copyright rules protect the artist and creator and allow them to be rewarded for their work. Some people are happy for you to copy or use their work for free, but most artists and musicians rely on copyright law to guarantee an income.

Copying music you’ve bought to your computer or player is a common activity which can generally be done without legal consequences. However distributing a song to others without the permission of the rights holders is a very different story. Unauthorised copying and distribution of copyrighted music is breaking the law, and that includes file-swapping of any copyrighted music on the best-known P2P networks such as Limewire. The recording industry has taken action against many people who have done this, with some large fines resulting.

Parents and carers can be held responsible for what happens on the family computer even if they are not themselves engaged in illegal activity.

Brian’s Comments: Copyright laws are national in scope for some countries noncommercial sharing is legal. The RIAA’s litigation and legal claims over distribution and parent liability are conjecture at best. Does it really make children safe online to SCARE them with lawsuit threats? Why not spend the time teaching them how to use the internet responsibly. This is like teaching safe sex through a scare video of STD’s without teaching how to use a condom. Finally, what about Fair Use and Fair Dealing? Both the US and Israel have strong Fair use exceptions while much of the rest of the world has other exceptions. Why only teach one side of the issue? Childnet, give parents some credit for having a brain and next time provide them with facts and options not propaganda.

Posted on March 16, 2008 in copyright, DRM, File Sharing, HarperCollins, Neil Gaiman by Brian RoweComments Off

HarperCollins wants your feedback:

Say no to DRM and Yes to Sharing

here is my comment:

“Let us share. It is tough to get traditional offline readers interested in works if you can not download and print. Everyone I know who is exposed to Gaiman’s works is interested in owning their own copies. Distributing viral copies through file sharing and printing is like giving people the first hit of an addictive drug for free.”

Posted on December 28, 2007 in 3D, File Sharing, Freedom to Tinker, Neil Gaiman by Brian RoweComments Off

Author Neil Gaiman responded on his blog to a reader asking about file sharing of two movies he cowrote – Beowulf and Stardust. They have both been more popular with P2P than in the box office. His response is very practical: add value to the in-theater experience, legitimize downloads and self distribute.

Guest Blogger Mitch Golden at Freedom to Tinker makes very similar points about 3D yesterday: “you could just download this fantasy flick and see it on your widescreen monitor. But unless you give us $11 and sit in a dark theater with the polarized glasses, you won’t be seeing the half-naked Angelina Jolie literally popping off the screen!”

Full letter and response from Gaiman’s blog

Dear Neil,

I wonder how you feel about both Beowulf & Stardust being among the top 10 most P2P traded movies of the year?

Are you glad that they’re popular, or do you wish people would actually pay for them?



I’m simply glad that they’re popular.

I suspect that in a few years you’ll be able legitimately to download a film the same day it goes on general release, and go to cinemas for an experience you’ll not be able to get elsewhere (Beowulf is a much better film in 3D, and, interestingly, did 40% of its first week business on 700 3D screens. The 3D thing is not something you can experience from a pirated download, not yet,) and one day the people who made the film (including the writers) will be properly compensated for it. Because mostly the solution to piracy seems to be providing the pirated thing yourself…

Gaiman photo by Kimberly Butler

Posted on November 13, 2007 in File Sharing, Monopoly by Brian RoweView Comments

File sharing as a way to free culture has been given an undeserved bad name by the propaganda machines of the RIAA and MPAA. I am starting to see academics parrot these lines while fleeing from any association with file sharing. The facts are that many people file share because they do not see it as wrong or harmful. The following list of reasons is an answer to the sad flight away from protecting and justifying what most people see as acceptable. In the fight to free culture it is useful to point out that distribution of information has become free of cost and the law is the only thing stopping the free exchange of information and culture(and is doing so very poorly at that). File sharing is an action that reinforces how free culture really could be.

Seven reasons file sharing is compatible with free culture:

1. Monopoly Market Solution:
File sharing creates real pressure on the monopolistic market players to use business models that do not rely on locking way culture.

2. Civil Disobedience (which I strongly agree with):
File sharing is a form of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is a way for people to send a message that they do not agree with legally locking away culture.

3. Non-excludable Media:
File sharing reminds people that culture is by nature non-excludable. File sharing attacks the core principle of exclusive control of culture. When people see that culture is non-excludable they are more likely to challenge the rational behind the laws that lock culture away.

4. Social Justice:
Should someone be locked out of culture based on their economic standing? No. File sharing creates access for those who can not afford access.

5. Creators Benefit from Access to Culture (On the Shoulders of Giants):
Culture grows through building on the past. We are not mere consumers we are participatory creators. Access to culture broadens our set of tools for expressing ourselves and creating new works.

6. Fair Use Argument (which I strongly agree with):
Access to culture is essential for expressing your fair use rights. How can one parody or speak out against that which is locked away from them. Access via file sharing makes commentary and critique much easier and more effective.

7. Art’s uniqueness
A piece of art has a unique place in the heart of each person who experiences it. While open-licensed software can functionally replace closed-licensed software, nothing can replace music and art that is closed-licensed. Many famous works of art are no longer available commercially. What a detriment to society to forbid us to share those pieces with others who were touched by them.

Closing Note:
I am not stating that file sharing is the only, best or ideal way to free culture, merely that it is a way, with some logical reasons supporting it and a lot of people doing it. Why not work with them, instead of against them?

I personally and professionally advocate for many different solutions to the current problems related to locked culture. These solutions range from educating people, and organizations about the advantages of freeing their work, to legalizing sampling and non-commercial sharing. At the same time, I respect those who act in other ways to free culture.

Brian Rowe